Those responsible for the cover of this book certainly picked up one of its recurring figures: the strong, imperious, take-charge, man-tasking woman who may also be, depending on the views of a male narrator, an attractively “crazy woman” (80) and possibly at times suicidal. More about her later.
After reading the opening stories in this collection I hadn’t thought I was going to like it. Readers like me who can be bored with fiction that recycles the once innovative metafictional wordplay of the 1960s and 70s should probably begin at the fourth story, “Professor Minaccia.” The first two stories, however, are indeed pomo-clever, and the third an interesting retake of the tough-guy Canadian poet and his poems of “sentimental violence” (39) that the young bpNichol tried to satirize in his 1968 Captain Poetry Poems.
“Professor Minaccia” and two other quite intriguing stories evoke the woman of the cover, as well as the child sex-abuse scenes of Bowering’s recent memoir Pin Boy. In each of these the take-charge woman sets a series of tasks and set of rules which the younger or less confident male must follow to win her approval. There are echoes here of the medieval courtly love romance in which a ‘belle dame sans merci’ sets tasks and limits for her knightly suitor – echoes particularly in Bowering’s characterization of his young men as naive and at times comically